April 12, 2009

Jesus died on the cross to save my sins? Oh, wait... nope. Crap.

So, it's Easter. All media outlets are dutifully relaying messages of Popes and pilgrimages. As with Christmas, non-Christians are being inundated with Christian messaging, ideals, and values. You are saved. I get it.
Thankfully, unlike at Christmas, our ears are not flooded with hymns in public places. And fortunately, also like Christmas, there is a secular option.

Many Christians I encounter are not aware of the privilege they are afforded in my society. However, non-Christians are well aware. Recently, I saw a sign from my car that read: "Give Jesus a try. If you don't like him, the devil will take you back." Oh! Lucky me! I get the devil. The irony of that statement is that, because I don't believe in God, I don't believe in the devil. It became amusing.
But what if you believe in God (Muslims, Jews, for example). Does that mean are you doomed to damnation? Of course that is what it means. That sign is an exercise in Christian arrogance that continues to amaze me.

Now, not all Christians adhere to that mentality; there are different interpretations of the Bible, etc. We know that. The point is, however, that the sign is allowed to exist without any scrutiny or question. But, when an 'atheist' bus ad surfaces, all Hell breaks loose! (must be the devil taking back those damned non-believers).

April 8, 2009

Oh, the privilege of ignorance...

A couple of nights ago, my husband came home from work and had to unlock the door (again), so he asked "Why do you always lock the door when you are home?!"

I don't think I know a single woman who doesn't know the answer to that question.

Some women either don't realize that they are oppressed, or they don't accept it. However, I have yet to meet a woman who does not asknowledge the power men have over women.

I lock the door for the same reason I pick up the pace when I hear footsteps behind me, or don't walk alone in the dark - out of fear - fear of violation. I have been programmed to fear men and what they can (and some will) do. I need to protect myself and my son. My husband has the luxury (privilege) of not experiencing that fear. He may fear other things, but never a violation in his home by a strange man.

April 7, 2009

I drive in the carpool lane with my son...

...in his car seat.

I often wonder what would transpire if I was ever pulled over. The lane explicitly says "2 or more persons." I am a person. He is a person. That makes 2, right?

Somehow, I don't think that they had mommies in mind when they made carpool lanes. My feeling of rebellion got me thinking about the standard of age. I am a person, as he is a person, so why did I think that someone might not think he counts?

The definition of the standard of age is ambiguous at best. It is so set, that we (in English) don't have a word that specifically refers to it. We have person. We have young. We have old. So, what are people in the middle (let's say, roughly, the 3 decades between 20 and 50) called? We are not middle-aged (not all of us, not yet!). We are just people. We are the standard. Everyone who doesn't measure up to that standard is either 'old' or 'young.' Interesting...

The lengths people will go to measure up amazes me - young people dress older, get fake IDs, and long to be 'old enough' to benefit from the privilege of measuring up to the standard. Old people do their darnedest to look younger - some get botox to fill in wrinkles, some spend stupid amounts of money on anti-aging 'this' and wrinkle-free 'that,' and some hit the gym like there is no tomorrow. All this to keep the privilege granted to those who measure up?

Who decided that aging was a bad thing? In many cultures, it is revered!

Age is an interesting standard because everyone has experienced the oppression of youth, everyone eventually measures up, and everyone who lives long enough experiences the oppression of the aged.

It's ironic, really. The oppressed become the oppressors, who then become oppressed by those they had oppressed. Talk about vicious circle!

Patronizing patriarchy!

So, the other day, my "husband" (read: common law spouse) and I were buying something at a store. As there were none of the desired item in stock, the store had to mail it to us. Annoying, but whatever. The male cashier started taking down our info and this is the conversation that ensued:

Cashier: Name?
Me: I'll give you his name 'cause we were using his credit card
Cashier: Ok
Me: Abc. Xyz
Cashier: Actually, how 'bout I get both of your names?
Me: Ok. Sarah
Cashier: (interrupting) Xyz.

Me: Uh (pause) Sure.
Cashier: Oh, I know what that means...

Really, sir? Do you REALLY know what that means? Do you know that it means that I decided not to correct your assumption that we are a) married, and b) that I took his name? Do you know that you assumed that I obliged the expectation that I would give up MY birth name and take on HIS? Do you really know what that means?

I am not an Xyz and, to be honest, I never will be (married or not). However, I pick my battles; it's just easier for me to say 'sure' than to say "Well, no. My last name is different."

Of all the ways the patriarchy is manifested in my society, the patrilineal system is at the top of my list of irritants. When I was 3 years old, I found out that my grandmother had had her married name longer than her birth name. I was appalled! The story is that I yelled "What?! No man is going to take MY name away from ME!" I have never wavered from that conviction.

The expectation that I should or would bothers me. Why would I give up the name that my parents gave me? Imagine me being Mrs. Abc Xzy. What would that say about my identity? My individuality? My independence? That would make me an extension of him, like his child. Why is that expectation ok?

No, thanks. I don't want to be the property of my husband. I don't want to be an extension of him. Although I carry the name of my father, and thus, am an extension of him, I like my name; it was given to me at birth and I will never change it.

I was curious to find out why women change their last names when they marry and when it started. After some half-hearted web research, this is the only thing that I found that addressed it directly. I have no faith in this source, but it's something. It attributes the origin of name-changing to the Bible. What doesn't originate from the Bible!? (Stay tuned for the standard of Christianity). Ugh.

April 6, 2009

Let's clarify the fundamentals...

What do I mean by 'societal standard?' A standard is something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example. In my society, the prominent standards are whiteness, ability, Christianity, heterosexuality, youth (but not too young), wealth, and maleness. The society is built to accommodate the people who measure up. Everyone else is relegated to the margins where they face countless, often insurmountable, barriers through institutionalized oppression.

Often, people who measure up have no idea about the barriers oppressed people face. That's because they don't have to, and because they are conditioned not to. The people who measure up are privileged; they benefit in ways that they don't even know, and they have the luxury of not having to know.

These standards are so ingrained that we often don't recognized them, anymore. I cannot tell you how many people (women included) tell me that female humans are no longer oppressed. Really, though? Really? That idea cannot be further from the truth (which I will address at a later date - probably tomorrow after I take my car to the shop).

Patriarchal standards are deeply ingrained that they are actually evident in our language - women, woman, human, mankind... there are numerous examples. It's even true in other languages.
Let's look at French:
Elle - female
Elles - more than one female
Il - male
Ils - any group with one or more males (it could be 50 women and one man, and it's still Ils).

These standards are reinforced in social systems - education, health care, legal, penal, governmental, and economic. We are conditioned to measure up to these standards, even if we never can, or don't want to.